NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Even as the economic recovery has largely taken hold and most of the alphabet soup of economic recovery programs has been wound down, it's good news that one program, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, has been extended.
Introduced in the first months of Barack Obama's presidency, and extended into 2016 last month, HARP was set up to allow homeowners who had underwater mortgages (in which the mortgage value is greater than the home's value) or owed almost as much as the value of their homes to refinance at lower rates.
More than 3.3 million Americans have now used HARP to lower their mortgage rates and to move into fixed loans from adjustable loans. But as of the end of 2014, some 604,678 American homeowners were still eligible for the program and had not yet used it, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency Web site HARP.gov.
HARP allows homeowners with limited equity in their homes to refinance their mortgages with far more favorable terms. On paper it's a terrific program: It allows responsible homeowners to refinance at today's lower rates even if they have little equity or if their mortgage is under water. It also reduces some of the paperwork and expense required to refinance.
But it has one big check on its progress -- homeowners have to apply for it, and many thousands that are eligible, and would benefit from it, haven't. The states where home prices fell the most in the crisis are still among those with the largest number of HARP-eligible homeowners.